I marched in the 60’s
I went to The High School of Music and Art, an extremely liberal high school and the first time I went to school with students of color.
As a New Yorker I was shocked at the racism casually occurring in Tampa in my freshman year there.
I worked for the Department of Social Services for 10 years and used to proudly say that I didn’t see color when I was there.
If I was a little more sensitive I would have picked up on the fact that though I considered myself “color blind” that wasn’t true of my black friends. One of whom at my engagement party remarked that “You Jews always stick together” when she saw me give my ex roommate Marlene a rye bread to take home. I just thought she was drunk.
When I stood on line at countless demonstrations to demand the end of the Viet Nam war and racial equality I equated the latter injustice to southern police with riot sticks and snarling dogs.
Two things have made me alert to how naive I was.
One was smart phones.
The other was Michelle Obama’s book.
With people photographing and putting on the internet the gross and small indignity that people of color suffered in their every day lives for the first time I saw things that I didn’t realize were happening.
And to my shock it wasn’t only in the stupid south it was here in my wonderful New York City.
I am one of 4 daughters, I adored my sisters.
When I’d try to say how I envisioned myself it it was as one of the sisters first, a New Yorker second and maybe a Jew.
Being white never even made the list.
You see when I walked into a place no one said “I won’t follow you to make sure you belong here because you’re white.”
Or “Of course you can live in this neighborhood or buy this very expensive dress because I’m sure you have the money since you’re white
Even if you’re rich and famous and black this vulnerability is something you carry with you.
I watched “Comedians in Cars Drinking Coffee” and when a police car turned on it’s siren telling Jerry Seinfeld to pull over, he was annoyed. His passenger, Chris Rock, seemed way more uncomfortable.
The audio version of Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming” was very kindly given to me by a friend I only know on Facebook.
I listen to it every time I get in my car.
It’s had a major effect on me. Not just because when she planned her future most of it was aimed at trying to improve the world. That only made me realize what a shit I was. But for the fact that her road had barriers that I actually never realized existed with someone of her obvious talents and worth.
Here was this beautiful, smart woman not quite comfortable when she went to Harvard until she made friends who looked like her.
I’m sure with all she has and would accomplish when she self identified being black was right up there.
I’ve been thinking and thinking about this for quite awhile.
I’ll try to keep thinking about it.
Maybe I’ll be “woke” when I’m 90.